Love and Longing in the Anthropocene

By Salil Chaturvedi


in the scheme of things it is not as momentous as the huge chunk of
Greenland’s Peterman Glacier
breaking off and drifting out to the open sea,
and there exists
no NASA satellite image of my heart
going sploof
and floating out helplessly in this choppy
city, but i do have an abiding memory
of you and me holding hands
watching fireflies
by the creek.



if only
    just for tonight,
you could be my arthropod
loving you
would be such segmented fun —
merrily I’ll tickle your setae and shake your telson,
nibble at each tagma and
pry around your epicuticle.
would be our pleasure
as i undertake a quest
of your biomineralised chitin and
rambunctious will be our love — imagine
spermatophores, or is it sperm metaphors,
travelling through your ostia
and the open circulatory system!



amazing is this tv!
baby, the same one which we leave on mute as we fornicate in its dancing lights.
contrast plus, digital tuning,
it even has Selectable Colour Temperature
and a filter for Noise
(which doesn’t affect your love-making
in any way), and this
gewgaw also boasts of an Auto Volume Leveller
and hidden somewhere in it
is a Smart Surfer (of course,
with a Child Lock)
i think we should explore it some time,
just after we’re done exploring
each other.



dragged out to the lonely sea, this boatload of human
ejecta, these export rejecta, were set
free amongst watery walls. they were
gliding on salty prayers for the past three weeks, while we were
hunting for shells on siridao beach.
i don’t remember their cries for help when we put the shells to our ears
but they made it to Java, where they were found
amongst tears. now no one wants
to keep the Rohingyas — sadly there are too many refugees and too
little refuge around here. just a matter
of detail, though, there were no females on the boat.
women are first to be digested by events;
they don’t even make it past history’s throat.



a spaceship (they’ve named it Kepler) has
been sent to cavort around a corner
of the milky way. its telescope will examine discs
of stars to locate silhouettes of planets, like ours.
from the dark galactic esplanade
its field lens will send back signals to a godown of scientists,
who’ll pore over them for hours.
what hounds me (absolutely confounds me)
is why we look for life elsewhere
without knowing what to do with ours?



the morning’s message is clear—
there’s no point in choosing  between my two
contrary selves. as i prepare the lemon tea,
day-dreaming about your buttocks
(that look like the hills of the Aravalis) the kitchen clock and
the dove behind the exhaust fan sing me a duet
of industrial reconciliation:
tic  gur-gur 
toc  gur-gur
        tic  gur-gur-groo
tic  gur-gur  
toc gur-gur
        tic  gur-gur-groooo



my name means water
i remember falling from the skies:
      i have felt the free fall,
      the kinetic exhilaration,
      the smack of the soil.
i have traveled up the stems of plants,
escaped through tiny holes from the underside of leaves,
emerged as dew on moist nights,
flowed under, in invisible streams
       i’ve held hands with other drops
       while cascading down waterfalls
       shouting at the top of our voices.
i’ve been sipped by deer—i’ve seen them from the inside.
i’ve lost all personality in rivers,
i’ve spent salted centuries in the atlantic thermohaline circulation.
i’ve evaporated many times and rumbled
in countless clouds, but i still envy these monsoon drops
that cling to your body.



 the day darkens into the thickness of trees,
amidst the pleasurable working of the earth,
some parts of us just crumble
and seep into the soil. the soft, damp voices
from spaces voided by termites
linger for hours in the air:
‘in the hollows of our giving
we’ve been waiting for you.’



early morning, the beach is empty,
the sea is
a jelly as if poised for a thought.
the crabs are out tasting the air.
you leave your footprints that others
will follow
if only for a day, or an hour.
the shells lie half-buried amongst tar balls
palms outstretched
hoping the return won’t be too long.



hey listen, the spoonbills have arrived.
the crickets have started singing the songs of our death.
inside stunned oceans are echoing the sounds
of terrifying liquid screams.
around my village, bulldozers have begun a conversation
with rice fields.
don't you know, you don’t really know a place till you’ve seen
it in moonlight.
do you ever get that nature-heart-stick-lollipop feeling?
take off your clothes and tell me about the angels, goddesses
and other cosmic beings living inside you.
if i could choose between fresh thoughts and fresh leaves,
i’d choose fresh leaves.
the TV is on too loud.

*The Anthropocene: Earth’s most recent geologic time period, based on overwhelming global evidence that atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, biospheric and other earth system processes are now altered by humans.

Salil Chaturvedi’s short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous journals, including Wasafiri, Guftugu and Indian Cultural Forum. He is the Asia-region winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Competition, 2008, and he won the Unisun/British Council Short Story Award in 2009. He also won the Wordweavers Poetry Contest in 2015. His debut poetry collection titled, In The Sanctuary Of A Poem, was released at the GALF, 2017.